The Surprise Gift
The fuss all had started when Shruti walked into her friend Disha’s house one afternoon to play after the school. The Roy household was agog with excitement. Shruti was quite surprised to see so many people at Disha’s house. All of Disha’s aunts, uncles and various cousins were around. Even her grandparents had arrived from Santiniketan.
Shruti wondered what was up. Suddenly, Disha spotted Shruti. “Shruti ", she shouted excitedly, "I've got a baby sister! I had told you that we were going to get a new guest. Now I have someone to play with all the time. Come and see her. I can’t believe! She is just like a doll- so cute and so sweet.."
Shruti was taken aback. Someone to play with all the time! Lucky Disha! I wish I had someone to play with all the time too, thought Shruti. But she said aloud, "Oh babies are no fun Disha. They cry all the time. Just look at Raima's little brother. Always crying wee, wee, and wee. And he even wets his bed. Yuck!"
But Disha was just too happy. Ignoring completely she went on, "Mummy says that's only for a short while. Then they learn everything", she said. "And I'm going to take her out in the stroller every afternoon. Now, I have to time to play with you all. Please don’t mind. Oh, it's going to be such fun. And we are going to call her Oisha, because it rhymes with my name!" With that, Disha danced off to take another look at her new born sister.
At dinner that evening, Shruti minced no words. She too wanted a baby and that too now, she declared. Her parents tried to pacify her and distract her, but Shruti was single-minded. At bedtime Shruti was in no mood to read any story book. Her mother sat up trying to explain how it takes time for a baby to arrive and that it could be a girl or a boy. Her father wanted to share with her the cartoon channel which she always loved to watch… but all in futile. She was neither in a mood to do all these nor was she ready to accept any excuses of why she won’t be having her own sister right now.
"No way," sobbed Shruti. "I also want a little sister just like Disha’s. I also want to play with her all day long and take her out in the stroller." All the explaining her mother did made no sense to her. She simply could not understand why her parents were being so difficult and are eager to wave off her ideas.. Crying and without taking the dinner, Shruti rocked herself to sleep.
Her parents hoped that she would forget all about the baby by next morning, but they were mistaken. The demand for a baby sister kept getting louder and louder, and the more Shruti met Disha the more she persisted. This five-year-old child was not only making it very difficult for her parents, but also for herself. Complaints trickled in from school which had never occurred before. Moreover with her mind, her health too showed signs of weakeing. Her parents began to get upset with Shruti. This only made things worse. It was time to take some serious action.
After a lot of thinking, Shruti’s parents decided to call her beloved grandparents. One day, When Shruti returned home from school, she was thrilled to see her dadai and diyan, her favourite jodi. They are the best partners of her since her birth.. "I'm so happy you have come diyan. Ma and baba are not getting me a baby sister," Shruti complained. "If my friend can have one, why can't I also have a baby sister? I am not a naughty child that God will never hear my prayers. I am telling you very soon God will send me my gift."
Over the next few days, dadai and diyan spent a lot of time explaining to Shruti, but no logic would work. The excitement of having her grandparents soon wore off and she was back to being very quiet, yet difficult. It was 'Baby Girl' and that too 'Now'.
It was at the breakfast table one morning that dadai had a superb idea. When he shared it with everyone, diyan immediately said, "This is wonderful". Shruti’s parents too nodded in unison. "But let this be a secret", said dadai. "We'll only let Shruti know at the right time. Now let's get down to some serious work."
Over the next many days, there was much excitement among the elders, but Shruti was completely unaware of it. As they went about telephoning people, writing letters, and visiting places, Shruti was still sad and very upset with her parents. Even the outings to the park every afternoon was stopped because she never felt like it. As for playing with Disha, it was a big 'No - No'.
A couple of weeks passed by. And then one evening when Shruti’s parents returned from work, dadai had some good news for them. "It's finally happened!" he told them. "This Sunday is going to be very, very special."
On Sunday they all set out in the car, this time with Shruti. "Where are we going mummy?" asked Shruti. "You'll soon know Tapur,” her mother said, hugging her tightly. The elders had a mischievous grin on their faces. Shruti wondered what was up, but didn't ask.
The car came to a halt near a big white building. "What is this place dadai?" asked an inquisitive Shruti. "We haven't been here before, have we? “No we haven't Tapur," replied dadai. After a pause he continued, "This is “Missionaries of Charity.” It is Mother Teresa's home for abandoned and orphan children. You are now too young to understand what it's all about, but you are going to get a big surprise here."
Shruti’s eyes lit up. She clutched onto dadai’s hand tightly and walked into the building.
Inside, a lady dressed in a white sari having a blue border greeted with a big cross on her chest, and led them into a large room. "Please be seated. I'll be back soon." Saying this she disappeared into the next room.
"She is Sister Nirmala. She is the one who takes care of this place. And she is the one who has the surprise gift for you," whispered dadai. Shruti sat erect, waiting for Sister Nirmala to reappear. She simply had no clue as to what was up and was eager to know what the surprise was all about.
Sister Nirmala returned soon. And this time she was carrying a cute little, curly-headed, bright-eyed, four-month-old baby girl. The baby was sleeping. She got the baby close to Shruti and said gently,” This is your baby sister." Shruti was wide-eyed with disbelief. She ran to her mother in sheer delight and asked, "Is she really my sister?"
"Yes Tapur", replied her mother. "She's all yours. Do you like her?"
"I love her!" screamed Shruti. "Now I have someone to play with all the time!"
"I think we should call her Mitti," proposed diyan. “And her pet name will be Tupur,” suggested dadai.
Shruti looked up questioningly.
"Because they both rhyme with Shruti and Tapur!" they all said united.
And little Shruti gurgled at that.